Kaplan is an intelligent and descriptive writer who is obviously fascinated by the history and the culture of wherever he happens to be standing, plus it's hard not to like a guy who, during his visit to Qom in Iran in the mid-'90s, tells about the time he was visiting with a couple of Shi'ite seminary students in their apartment and they asked him a question:
"You are so interested in us, but what about you? What is your religious background? Americans can be many things, we have heard."
"I am Jewish."
Whether he's hanging with Mujaheddin in Afghanistan back during the Russian invasion or fast-talking drunken AK-wielding Ivoirian soldiers off the aid truck on which he's hitchhiking in western Africa, it's the kind of travel writing that constantly reminds you that the definition of "adventure" is "Godawful and uncomfortable things happening to other people thousands of miles away from me."